We all deserve to feel safe at home. That’s one reason why home security systems are so popular. However, there are some safety risks that all homeowners should be aware of, including those with our water heaters.
A water heater is a necessary appliance and not something to worry about the vast majority of the time. Although rare, a tank water heater does have the potential to burst or explode, creating a dangerous situation and leading to costly water damage.
There are three main reasons why a tank water heater may burst: excess pressure, sediment build-up, and rust. In most cases, dangerous situations can be avoided with proper water heater maintenance by a licensed plumber.
Some pressure is normal and necessary inside your tank water heater. In fact, the internal pressure is typically between 50 and 100 PSI. However, too much pressure can be very dangerous. As cold water is heated, the volume expands ever so slightly. If the excess pressure is not released, it will start pushing against the walls of the water heater, eventually causing a leak or explosion.
Fortunately, every modern water heater should have a temperature and pressure relief valve (TPRV). If the pressure gets too high inside the tank, the valve opens to release water until the pressure returns to a safe range. It’s important to test this valve as part of routine maintenance to make sure it isn’t worn out or stuck. You should also make sure the temperature isn’t set too high, which could lead to excess pressure. The recommended temperature is 120° F.
The water supply that fills the tank contains a small amount of minerals. If you’ve heard of “hard water,” that refers to water with higher levels of calcium and magnesium. On their own, these minerals are not concerning as they naturally occur in water and do not pose health risks. However, inside a water heater, these minerals tend to settle at the bottom of the tank and accumulate into larger deposits. This build-up can disrupt the heat transfer and corrode the inside lining of the tank. Over time this sediment contributes to a water heater bursting.
The best way to manage mineral build-up is by draining and flushing the tank to remove sediment that has accumulated.
Another way that a water heater deteriorates from the inside is from rust. That’s why most water heaters have a replaceable part called the sacrificial anode rod. Made of magnesium or aluminum, the anode rod attracts the corrosive elements that cause metal to rust. The rod breaks down over time but preserves the inside of the tank. Once the anode rod is fully corroded, it needs to be replaced. Depending on your water’s mineral content, you can expect the replace the anode rode about every three years or so.
Water heater maintenance and repair in Northwest Houston
This article isn’t intended to scare you or make you feel unsafe in your home. Rather, we just want all our customers and all homeowners to be aware of the risks of their water heater – and, more importantly, what can be done to minimize the risk of a burst.